FRIDAY’S top of the table tussle will be won or lost in the forwards, according to Saints ace James Roby, writes Nathan Okell.

The enigmatic hooker stated both packs contain household names which will be looking to get on top of each other, with exciting backs on hand to rack up the points.

Bragging rights are also at stake, with Roby knowing all to well what winning a local derby means to people in the town.

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“With big derby games and top of the table clashes like this week, there’s always a bit more importance on it and that’s always in the back of your mind,” he said.

“There’s going to be more people in the ground and the rivalry between the fans is a big part of it.

“People have family who work in Warrington and there are Warrington fans who work over here, which creates a better atmosphere on the night and a better spectacle for the fans.

“I’m sure people will be stopping the lads in and around town saying ‘big game this week’ and ‘make sure you beat Warrington’ and that’s great for us - it’s all part of the job.

With international test forwards in either side in the form of Luke Thompson, Alex Walmsley, Chris Hill and Mike Cooper, Roby said both sides will have their work cut out to gain the upper hand.

“The forward battle will be a very big factor in determining who comes out the winner,” continued the Saints captain.

“The packs are going to be going at each other, get on top of each other, and there will be a lot of traffic coming down the middle of the field.

“At the same time though, I’d like to think both us and Warrington can play a bit and score a lot of tries out wide as well with the talent we have in the backs.”

Two players in particular Saints will have to keep a close eye on are Roby’s Man of Steel rivals Blake Austin and Daryl Clark, who have both been in tremendous form in the early stages of this year’s competition.

“Blake Austin is a great player out of what I’ve seen of him this year and he’s playing very well,” added the hooker.

“He’s full of confidence and come over with a big reputation and fair play to him, he’s lived up to it and is doing what he’s paid to do.

“He is definitely one player we’ll have to do a job on and control on Friday night, as will Daryl Clark.

“We’re pretty similar in the way that if we get a quick play the ball we’re running, and although he’s a bit younger than me now, I love those battles against quality opposition so I can test myself against the best.”

Saints come into the game aiming to bounce back from their first loss of 2019 – an 18-10 defeat at Catalans on Saturday.

Roby stated that the lessons learned in defeat could only be of benefit to the side as they go into Friday’s mouth-watering encounter.

“The most important thing for us is to learn our lesson and get on with it,” said Roby.

“Everything we come across is a lesson and we’ve got to use that as a learning curve and that’s definitely what we will be doing.”

“We’re still sitting joint top of the league with Warrington and come Friday night, hopefully we be two points clear.”